Migraines! Yuck! Just hearing the word makes my head hurt. As a sufferer of migraines from as far back as I can remember, I know what it’s like to lose hours and days from your life due to these excruciating headaches.
My migraines follow the typical pattern of classic migraines- first a feeling that something is just not right, as slowly I become aware of a disturbance in my field of vision, usually in one eye. After 5 to 10 minutes, the disturbance, or “aura”, gradually goes away and the actual pain of the headache begins. In my case, the eye with the aura is not the one that hurts, but the opposite eye will feel as if someone is sticking a red, hot poker in it!
My migraines in my younger years were definitely tied to my menstrual cycle, usually occurring about a week before I started my period. Unfortunately, I experienced early menopause and with the consequent erratic hormone fluctuations, I began having migraines one after another. I discovered though, that there were other factors bringing on these terrible headaches, as I still continued to have them, even when I no longer had those pesky periods to worry about.
Triggers can be as varied as the women who are plagued by these headaches, but for me, personally, the common ones that I had to be constantly aware of consisted of caffeine, alcohol, lack of sleep, stress, sunlight, exercise and even the barometric pressure changing.
Often, one warning sign was sinus congestion and scientists seem unsure whether the congestion brings on the migraine, or whether the migraine initiates the congestion. Regardless, I found that if I took an antihistamine on days when I felt that funny feeling, I can only describe as “migrainy”, (Yes, it’s a made-up word but if Sarah Palin can do it, why can’t I?) then often the headache would not develop.
For years after my periods ceased I still continued to have migraines, although they did seem a bit better. I was diagnosed three years ago with wheat and gluten intolerance. The interesting thing I discovered is that my migraines have improved considerably by following a gluten free diet. I can now go months without experiencing one, which is a good thing because the older I get, the less I want to waste another day in pain.
There are many medications out to help prevent and treat migraines. More natural therapies include the use of herbs, such as feverfew and also hormonal therapies, for migraines originating from hormone fluctuations. And I never go out in the sunshine without a good pair of sunglasses, as sunlight will definitely trigger a headache.
I try to live a holistic lifestyle and do not like to take medication if a more natural alternative is available. So other than the occasional antihistamine I mentioned earlier, medication hasn’t been an option I was comfortable with. I have found some therapies that help, but the problem is they aren’t very feasible if you are at work. In fact, some of these alternative therapies might get you fired, but if you are home when a headache strikes, perhaps they will provide you with some relief, also.
The first thing to do is run a hot bath and put some ice in a plastic food storage bag. I wrap the ice pack in a washcloth and lay it across my forehead. Use one that is large enough to allow the cold to wrap around your temples. Then place the rest of your body, including your hands, in the warm water. I believe what happens is the ice constricts the dilated blood vessels in your brain that are causing the headache and resultant pain, while the warm water increases the blood flow to the rest of your body.
Recently, I discovered that taking deep breaths helps the headache to recede and seems to reduce the severity. If I had not taken an antihistamine before, I try to do so before I get in the warm bath. Although, I usually still feel some pain, these steps definitely help with the discomfort and keep the migraine from becoming so bad I want to crawl into bed like a wounded pup that has had a run-in with a porcupine. Speaking of crawling into bed…
There is one other therapy that you probably won’t read about in a medical journal but I have heard on good authority works wonders with the pain, experiencing an orgasm! I don’t know what the scientific basis for this is, but considering the agony of migraines, anything is worth a try. How you manage this therapy is your business!
I have found a wonderful website www.womentowomen.com that is a treasure trove of information for this and other topics and for the various therapies I’ve described, (yes, ALL of them), so feel free to do a little research on your own.
Seriously, though, migraines are not a joking matter. Try to eat right, exercise and get plenty of sleep and if you find you need more help to deal with these debilitating headaches, talk to your doctor. They can be a sign of a more serious disease.